One of the most successful NBA duos of the ’00s is back together as Mike D’Antoni joins the staff of rookie head coach Steve Nash on the Brooklyn Nets.
D’Antoni will bring his esteemed offensive pedigree with him to one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. His hiring should have a profound impact on Brooklyn’s system moving forward.
When asked what kind of offense Nash plans to run during his first tenure, Nash spoke about the “principles and ideas” that he hopes to implement for superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (transcription via Nets Wire):
“So, I want us to play fast. I want us to space the floor, to create opportunities to get downhill with our ball-handlers and make plays for one another, attack close-outs. So a lot of high-level philosophical thoughts, and of course we’ll design and have offensive sets and things that we think fit our group. But, we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves with our offense. We want it to stay pretty high-level right now.”
Of course, this fast-paced philosophy was on full display when Nash played for D’Antoni. The first-time head coach called the time “revolutionary” and the numbers reflected that when compared to the league average.
"I want us to play fast, I want us to space the floor to create opportunities."
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) October 27, 2020
We took a look at each team D’Antoni has coached since his first year as an assistant back in 1997, which provides context for the pace that Brooklyn will play next season and beyond.
As the league average pace has increased over the last twenty-plus years, the teams that D’Antoni coached have consistently finished well above the league average.
The faster the pace recorded, the more opportunities that teams will have to score. This will offer a methodical way of optimizing the all-world talent of Durant and Irving.
Looking at the chart above, it is interesting to focus on the stretch from 2004 until 2008. Not only was Nash on the team under D’Antoni but new Nets player development assistant Amare Stoudemire and Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks were both on the roster during that tenure as well.
Another takeaway is that the Rockets had the second-fastest pace (104.04) in the NBA last season. During the 2013-14 seasons, when Nash played point guard and D’Antoni was the coach, the Los Angeles Lakers (99.72) had the fastest pace among all teams in the Western Conference.
Pace offers a perspective on the full game but on a more granular level, we also took a look at how fast the teams have played on a per-possession level.
Under coach D’Antoni, Phoenix had the shortest time of possession among all teams in the NBA in 2004-05 (11.2 seconds) and 2005-06 (11.6 seconds).
Meanwhile, also coached by D’Antoni, the Knicks had the shortest time of possession among all teams in the Eastern Conference in both 2008-09 (11.7 seconds) and 2010-11 (12.2 seconds). Note that Stoudemire was a key player for New York during the latter of the two aforementioned seasons.
Brooklyn is inevitably going to play a quicker brand of basketball with Nash, D’Antoni and Stoudemire all in the mix. They will push the break in the open court and could be dominant in transition.This will be fantastic for superstar talents like Durant and Irving.
When including the regular season and the playoffs, per Synergy, Durant had the second-most total points scored in transition as recently as 2018-19. He was among the top five in transition points per game in 2013-13 (5.8 ppg) and in 2016-17 (6.5 ppg).
Irving, meanwhile, had the fourth-most transition assists per game (1.8 apg) among all players in the Eastern Conference during his first season with the Nets. Irving may also both play off the ball as a shooting threat in space with either Spencer Dinwiddie or Caris LeVert bringing it up the court.
Regardless, the offense with Durant and Irving is going to be potent with Nash in the driver’s seat and D’Antoni as his experienced, savvy co-pilot.